Own two feet


I opened the letter

I opened the letter. It was from a solicitor. There had been a crash. Somebody had been hurt. I was the driver.

Wait a minute.

I was the driver.

I read the words back. There must be some kind of mistake.

Or maybe I was the driver.

I scanned my memory. This was too big to forget, even with my sieve like memory, but still I wracked my mind and kept questioning it. No this was a mistake. The letter stated the accident had happened early in the morning. I never drove in the mornings. It was a week day. I checked my diary. I was at work.

On the phone to the insurance company I was guilty until proven innocent, though they told me not to worry as the insurance claim was going through.

But I wasn’t the driver I continued to protest, and no I didn’t own a Renault Megane. I was then told I also owned a Mercedes.  It sounded great, except parked outside my house was a very boring VW Borra.

The man went onto say that the Megane and the Mercedes had been insured under my name at the address where I was living for almost two years. I continued to protest my innocence and it was at that moment the memory flashed.

The last time I had seen my brother.

Or, at least, almost seen him.

There had been an angry conversation outside my house. “I can’t find you,” he said, “where are you?… Come down and meet me.”
“I can see you… Just park where you are now… you’re right here.”
“Look just come down and meet me on the road.”

I could see him from the kitchen window, but I wouldn’t go down the four flights of stairs. I was always going to him. Always the one trying. Always doing the running. “Well fuck you!” he shouted and the silver Mercedes disappeared.

I called him.  After the denials came desperate pleading. “But I’m your brother…you’ll send me to jail again… just say it was you, come on the claim is going through”.

“Why didn’t you come to me at the time…no way am I saying it was me…you’ve gone too far this time”. I begged him to go back to the police and tell them the truth.

His pleading quickly turned to rage. “You’ve never changed…this is just you rejecting me all over again”. What was his betrayal now became an opportunity to drag up the past and a decision I had made as a 14 year old boy. He threw as much as he could down the phone and then was gone.

As kids we fought. When I say fought, I mean I bullied. It is only in recent years I have been able to accept that. So many memories I have hidden. Not only from other people, but also from myself.

I remember outside our tower block stripping him naked. Other kids on the estate were laughing and egging me on. I wanted to please them more then protect my brother.

I think I was eight or nine, which would make him five or six. Stripping him was not humiliating enough so I forced his mouth open and spat in it.

I could try and defend myself. try and paint a picture of some of the things we had both experienced or seen.  But it doesn’t matter because nothing can take that moment away.

Still as much as we fought, we loved. The love is still the same, I think for both of us. It is a wild, passionate, confused love that wants to belong, but doesn’t know how. It rages that it wants to rest, but cannot sit still in each of our hearts or heads because it never had the opportunity to mature.

It was never nurtured because as soon as we went into care I turned on him. I turned on him because he was my only memory of the lives we had had taken away from us.

His face and presence were a constant reminder of everything we were losing. It is fair to say we needed to be taken away from the lives we had. Mum was very sick and getting worse. We were getting into increasing trouble at school. His dad was non-existent and my dad intermittent in our lives.

Leaving probably was for the best, but it was our home. It was all we knew. It was where we belonged.

I went into care permanently at the age of nine. Some days it’s easier to remember being in care, but other days it’s like staring into a black hole. What is always constant in my memory, however, is the utter shame I felt. That shame was magnified in my brother’s presence. He kept reminding me of home.

I missed my mum and my friends. I knew I had to destroy them all and the hope of ever getting back. My brother was the strongest link so my effort was concentrated here. The fighting and arguing increased. Everything he did annoyed me.

At the time I couldn’t understand why, but now it is all so obvious. I threw all the pain at him, the one person who knew exactly how I felt. When he needed me the most I turned my back on him.

We were finally split up when I was 14. We’ve never recovered. I have moved on from my care experience in so many ways, but this is the one area that has never healed.

Perhaps the damage was too great and too deep for us. Before our most recent split after the car incident it was impossible to escape our past. It was always there in the room with us in opposing corners.

I wish our care experience could have bound us tightly together, but it had the opposite effect. What saddens me is that more was not done to support us as brothers.

We needed the adults, foster parents, carers at the children’s homes, social workers, to help us build the bridges we needed to find each other so we could face this new world together.

But the quick fix was always king, and I fear it still is. For years I blamed myself, but slowly I came to the realisation: I was just a child.

My brother and I needed more help then we got and today there are many other children like us in the care system.

In a recent speech MP Edward Timpson spoke about children in care in the context of the new children and families bill., He said ‘How would we feel if these were our own children? We’d almost certainly be outraged. Spurred into immediate action. So what’s the difference with the children in the care system? The truth is there is no difference. They are our children.’

We need to do more.

Advertisements

7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

As always, incredible honesty and such courage to look into your heart when you look into your past.
Every care home worker, social worker and child in care should read your blog. We need to do more?
That is what would do more. Education and learning from past experiences even if they are not our own, is what would do more.
There must be a way.

Like

Comment by Sue Oak

Brave words John – I hope that writing these amazing shorts so eloquently allows you increasing peace within yourself.
I love reading your writing and always start to write comments, but always fear that they are too small and too patronising when you are laying yourself bare time and again.

Like

Comment by Oz Wilks

I came across your blog at the bottom of an email from the Who Cares? Trust. It has made an enormous change to my life.
I went through the care system, alongside other painful childhood experiences, and now as an adult I am blighted by the past, the future and how confusing it all is for someone who has had to try to understand some of the things that children in care have.
I have, over the course of the past three years, developed severe depression and felt as though I cannot connect with the world properly.
Thank you for giving words to some of the things that not many people can understand; it is hugely cathartic to be able to read them.
I have just started a blog and I would invite you to have a look, and I hope that there might be some words there that in turn, do something good for you.

Like

Comment by karladhiya

On the nail as ever, in terms of your personal experience. Straight to the heart.
You end “We need to do more.” But maybe we need to do less.
In all the years I worked with young people it seemed that almost every new policy – whatever its therapeutic intention – merely managed to find new ways to damage children further.
“Care” remains something that is “done” to the poor.
That’s why that MP’s cry about “How would we feel if these were our own children?” has so little substance. It is precisely because children in care could never be his children (however dysfunctional his family might be, his children would never be subjected to care) that policies of family punishment can continue.

Like

Comment by paul mck

That’s a fair point…maybe we don’t need to do more, maybe we just need to do better. I also think it is not just up to the suits to help improve the situation, everybody has a role. Thank you so much for the comment…on point!

Like

Comment by whocarestrust

[…] When I was looking through the excellent Who Cares? Town site for young people I stumbled across this excellent blog post on this very topic. The writer’s insight into his own behaviour can help us to understand why some of these […]

Like

Pingback by Brothers and sisters | nikkilukepsych

Thank you so much for the read.

Like

Comment by whocarestrust




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: